One Night With Billy Haley & The Comets

By Brad Dison

On Friday night, October 14, 1955, Lubbock, Texas would have been the place to be.  Rock and Roll was in its infancy, and Bill Haley & the Comets were there at the very beginning.  Bill Haley and his band were a hot commodity in the music industry after they released a song which went straight to the number 1 position and would forever link them with the early days of Rock and Roll, “Rock Around the Clock.”  Their next single rose in the charts and became forever linked to the era as well, “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”  Several hits were yet to come.

When Bill Haley’s management began preparing for the Lubbock, Texas show, they decided to search for a local band to open the show because it was cost effective.  They, Bill Haley’s team, would not have to pay for travel expenses, hotel, or meals, and they could hire a local band for a single night at a much lower price than if they hired someone with a hit record.  Somehow, Bill Haley’s team learned about a trio comprised of 19-year-old Charles Hardin, 18-year-old Bob Montgomery, and 16-year-old Larry Welborn.  The trio had not settled on a name so posters for the show just listed their names.  The trio normally performed country music on local radio and at school dances but wanted to branch out into Rock and Roll.

Prior to the show, Eddie Crandall, manager of Marty Robbins, a country singer who was on the cusp of his meteoric rise, heard the trio performing live on Lubbock’s local radio station.  Eddie recognized something special in the trio and decided to attend the live concert to see how the trio performed in front of a crowd.  The trio so impressed Eddie that he asked them to record four demo songs and forward them to his office in Nashville.  In a letter Eddie wrote to Charles, “I’m very surprised to know that nothing has happened before now.”  He was referring to the fact that no one had signed the trio to a contract.

The trio recorded the four demos, forwarded them as instructed, and waited.  Over the next two years, the lineup in the trio changed as Bob and Larry were replaced by Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin.  Niki Sullivan joined the band as lead guitar player, but only stayed for a few months.  The new group adopted a band name and began recording.  Oh boy, what recordings they were!  In 1957 and 1958, Charles and variations of his band recorded several hits, songs that are still played with reverence today. 

Had Bill Haley’s management team did not hire the trio as an opening act in 1955, we may never have heard of Charles Hardin.  On the poster for the Bill Haley & the Comets show, the trio was listed not as Charles, Bob, and Larry, but “Lubbock’s Own Buddy, Bob, and Larry.”  You know Charles Hardin Holley as Buddy Holly.

Source: Paese, Meagan. “Buddy Holly, the History of Rock and Roll Radio Show.” Accessed October 18, 2022. thehistoryofrockandroll.net/buddy-holly/


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